Is Pat O'Day the founding father of Northwest rock ‘n’ roll or the “Godfather” of the 1960s teen dance scene? A vampire or the catalyst? Or all of the above? There are many Northwesterners who would debate these points for days on end, but what is perfectly clear is that when it came to the business of rock music in the Northwest, Pat O’Day was the Chairman of the Board, the Grand Poobah, the Top Dog, the Big Kahuna. New York City had Alan Freed, Boston had Arnie Ginsberg, Los Angeles had Hunter Hancock, and Seattle had O’Day. As Seattle’s highest-profile DJ of the 1960s and the region’s dominant dance promoter, Pat O’Day ran Northwest rock ‘n’ roll for nearly a decade. ~~from HistoryLink. Read his life story here.
Today, Pat O’Day, 72, the man who personified KJR (Channel 95) is a Friday Harbor businessman (real estate) a Republican, an author, (It Was All Just Rock 'n' Roll II) and ubiquitous spokeshole for Schick Schadel Hospital. He’s inarguably the most successful personality and promoter in Seattle radio history.
Pat agreed to comment for BlatherWatch on the state of Seattle news talk radio. He takes no prisoners, and even though he’s a damn Republican, we wish he were directing some programming around Seattle in these dog days of talk-talk.
In Part 1.0, O’Day ended with a challenge. In this, the final
installment, he tells how he would run a talk station and news
Let’s Do It Right For A Change! (Part deux)
news talk radio and play by play may be the last soldiers left standing…
By Pat O’Day
Where radio news can be bombastic, and addictive, I find it to be generally insipid. But some PD’s and their consultants will say. Things are different now! Oh really?
You’re going to tell me people and times have changed? (That’s a favorite consultant bromide designed to fit their latest whim.) You’re going to tell me listeners don’t laugh, cry, frown, smile, exhibit emotions, and crave excitement any more?
Then, pray tell, why did they fixate on those planes hitting the twin towers and watch it again and again and again? Why did they fixate on pictures of water rushing across New Orleans? If nice, even-toned boredom is what people seek, why have pictures on TV? Why not a blank screen with copy that reads, “Waters inundate New Orleans!”
That’s what radio seems to believe.
I guess TV, networks and cables, don’t know what they’re doing when they produce giant, expensive, colorful, musically superb, new intros. Radio now knows people don’t care for that! Wrong again!
Well Pat, you say- what would you do if you were given an AM station and told to make it a success in the very competitive Seattle news talk radio arena?
Thank you, I’m so glad you asked. Regardless of the political or audience direction I’m pursuing, the approach would be the same.
All hosts will first have to meet the primary criteria. They must have an obsession with dramatics. They must carry a constant desire to be entertainers. They must deeply want to make people laugh, cry, get angry, upset, and be totally theatrical. Intellect, curiosity, and reasonable radio skills are assumed to be tools they possess prior to consideration.
They must be able to conduct themselves before the public, as they do on the radio. They must be able to go out and corral their listeners, and new listeners, with appearances, speaking engagements, and even a remote for an advertiser if necessary.
Topics of discussion must be carefully planned. Two or more strident representatives, one or more from each side of the issue, should have pre-recorded so both sides are delivered with great emotion. (This is called show prep!)
Now, we’re ready for the listeners to participate. We’ve excited them, we have involved them emotionally, and we're now ready for some great radio!
There is no issue, so small or inconsequential, that deserves less than all the emotion you can muster if you want to maximize the time spent listening to the show.
A great radio station is not a bunch of segmented islands with personalities that appear unaware of the programming around them. Many topics should carry on from show to show. Cross-references should be constant! Well-planned and well-orchestrated differences of opinions between the on-air performers should be maximized.
Listeners should be led to believe there are nearly fist fights in the halls of the station when the various hosts meet and discuss issues. The stations hosts should be perceived as a somewhat dysfunctional family that is rarely on the same identical page. This breeds excitement, comparison, and doesn’t differ greatly from real life. Cross-reference naturally builds audience for the entire station, and allows the listener to envision what happens behind the microphone. IT MAKES RADIO REAL!
Lets get back to the analysis of the performers and their objectives. In addition to Rush, there’s another syndicated performer who makes my MVP list and that’s Dr. Michael Savage. If one listens to Savage, one begins to understand how you can break through the impersonal barrier of the airways, microphones, small speakers, and impart true emotion.
Earlier I stated that effective talk radio would make you laugh, or cry, or angry. Listen to Savage and you’ll hear what I mean. Frankly, with only two exceptions, every Seattle talk host needs to grab a page out of his book and most need to read the entire book!!!
You might say, “I wouldn’t want to be thought of like Michael Savage is thought of...” And I say to you, “Why not find a new business. Radio doesn’t really need you!”
Moving to radio news, we’re simply terrible and getting worse. As news reporters provide newscasts for multiple stations in their respective buildings, they are becoming robots offering minimal listening enjoyment, and even less excitement.
J. Paul Hudelston, the marvelous newscaster from KHJ Los Angeles once
told me his motto. REDUNDANCY KILLS AUDIENCES. He’s so right.
For God’s sake, radio is the immediacy media! Radio with today’s immediate information availability, should take full advantage of its ability to instantly pass information to the listener. Leave the story that’s twelve hours old to the miserable newspapers, to TV, to the Internet, and report only what is immediate. Report only updates on big stories. Never repeat the same story twice. Are we the immediacy media, or do we want to replace the newspapers delivering yesterday’s news?
Thirty-six years ago I was running KJR Seattle. I wanted to be the most respected news source in Seattle despite the fact that we were a Top 40 Rock and Roll Radio Station.
I wanted us to be perceived as having the finest, biggest news staff in the market, despite the fact that I had only two newsmen, and no outside reporters. We eliminated newscasts other than morning drive where we told people what had happened while they slept. The balance of the day, the news department had carte blanche to break into the music programming AT ANY TIME they had a breaking story. They were allowed 60 seconds max and much less preferably, with one overriding rule. DON’T EVER REPEAT A STORY UNLESS YOU’VE AN UPDATE, AND DON’T YOU DARE EVER BORE ME WITH A NEWS BREAK!
Their information came from the wire, and from listeners. We gave valuable prizes to listeners for the top news tip of the week. Soon, nothing could happen in the Puget Sound Basin we weren’t aware of. The newscasters could pick and choose what merited airing.
We were first to report fires, hold ups, accidents, but it didn’t stop there.
One morning when embezzlers were arrested in the office at City Hall in the offices where traffic tickets were paid, we were on the phone to the prosecutor’s office before the perps had been cuffed by police.
Yep, a worker standing nearby wanted to win the weekly prize, and gave us- hours ahead of the rest- the breaking big story before the accused had even arrived at the police station.
Now, that’s excitement! That’s radio at it’s best! Immediate, exciting, and fun!
At about this time, KIRO radio determined they should go all-news. They conducted research to find vulnerabilities and needs in the
market. To the amazement of the researchers hired to get the answers,
they discovered the towns li’l ol’ rock and roll radio station, with
it’s two-person news staff and a few jocks doing the news in the off
hours, had by far, the leading news image in the entire market. This
included national as well as local news.
No, not KOMO, not KVI, not KIRO with their big news staffs, news cars, TV affiliations, etc. The most respected radio news source in Seattle was KJR.
Perception is everything!!!!!!!
The guiding light in great radio, and to great news talk radio can be reduced to three things: Great showbiz, great theater, great imagination, all engineered with common sense.
No, you don’t need or want a consultant- What you need is- a PD with courage, appreciation of great theater and common sense; and an air staff that will sit and listen to their airchecks together, compare notes, humbly critique one another, and plan for greater, more entertaining conquests.
I deeply appreciate the opportunity to offer these truths.